Blog # 62  INVITATION TO THE DANCE

The waltz, as it is commonly known, is a ballroom dance performed at close quarters by two dancers who revolve in perpetual circles to music played at three-quarters tempo; examples are The Hesitation Waltz and the Blue Danube.

The salient descriptive features of the waltz are uncannily similar to the much extolled practice of negotiation; the latter having the purported reputation of being the superlative method of resolution of conflicting interests. Yet there are fascinating similarities between this much vaunted practice and the waltz.

Excluded from consideration here are intra-family and interpersonal disputes; a mutually identifiable, recognized issue must be identified in order to consider negotiation. In the categories of disputants cited, there is a predictable absence of identification of the basic issues truly underlying the dispute.

The recommendation to employ negotiation where the parties have reached an impasse is perceived ideally, to be the most responsible route to an equitable solution. This ideal rendition of the procedure anticipates an evenhanded peace between warriors of equal strength and prowess. This expectation requires a naiveté requisite to the acceptance of an invitation to tea from the Mad Hatter.

So salutary and constructive does the ideal concept of negotiation appear that there has evolved in human society an entirely new genus and species of preacher-like being, coaches in the “art” of negotiation. These self- anointed savants (similar in stripe to the class of “motivational speakers”), rein in substantial piles of money by recounting to enthralled audiences useless aphorisms and facts which they already know, but expressed in a hyped up and” feel-good” jargon. Like the snake oil salesmen of old, these people have learned the dark art of preying upon easily impressionable people who seem to manifest, for a very brief and ephemeral moment, a sense of determined and confident direction.

These performers, dressed in expensive garb and possessed of a rich, golden voice seem to have the perverse talent to prey upon the sensitivities of the gullible who are convinced that they require a magical amulet or special incantation to succeed at their efforts, negotiation or otherwise.

Successful resolution of a disputed issue in the formalized procedure of the negotiation does not depend upon ostensible confidence, attire or personality. These features which are the grist for the mill of the “feel good” preachers usually are unrelated to the outcome of the process.

Apart from its idealized conception and the criteria urged by the” snake oil salesmen”, the negotiation process (dance) is almost always stacked in favor of one of the disputants, viz., the party whose materials or services are needed most by the other. This is the major and usual theme and situational determinant as to who sits in the “cat-bird” seat.

Aside from the stated misconceptions, negotiation is, in fact, a useful and practical way to shorten the length and mitigate the cost of a dispute. However, the parties have to pay close attention to their relative bargaining positions in order to realistically determine, for the purpose of the specific dance, who leads and who follows.

–p.

Blog # 61  MORTAL POWER FAILURE

A brief search into the history of the Seventh Century (Bronze Age) will disclose a widespread religious belief in an antagonistic competition between the forces of light (goodness) and dark (evil). It was the Persian philosopher, Zoroaster, who is understood to have codified this belief and founded a major religion, Zoroastrianism.

In the present age we continue to witness the competing forces of dark ignorance and that of enlightenment. It is disappointing and agonizingly painful to observe that ignorance and superstitious belief systems not only persist but seem to have metastasized.

There is a heated debate between people, alarmingly aware of environmental threats to our planet and its atmosphere, based upon reports from our leading scientists to the effect that it is caused by the consumption of traditional sources of energy, like coal and oil, and others, who reject all scientific findings and wish to continue such consumption.  People, concerned with such scientific reports, see man as the responsible trustee of our planetary health and champion alternative non-polluting sources of energy, like solar and wind power.

Concurrent with (and perhaps, related to) this vital debate is an even more fundamental antagonism which pits the value of man’s most precious natural resource, his human intelligence and capacity for reason, against the too resilient forces of ignorance and superstitious belief. The latter have unremittingly under- valued and deprecated, that most precious and valuable resource, man’s reason.

Indeed, most of our “mainstream” folks evince a devaluation and disrespect for the intellectual in favor of the knowledge-limited, but glitzy and attractive, “dude” or “diva.” (See: blog #29). The subject of science, the arts and the humanities, so vital to the development of the self and to the enhancement of life, go unexamined in favor of the worship of transient and ephemeral style and fashion, and the pursuit of shallow amusement. The latter choose to remain blind to the fact that the natural resource of human intelligence has unlimited potential for the solution of difficult problems, existential and otherwise, and exists as an available and renewable energy source capable of unlimited problem- solving and untold creativity.

The great English philosopher, John Locke, maintained that knowledge is gained through the accumulation of experience, rather than by vain attempts to consult external sources. Science, reason and logic, he reasoned, are the only true sources of our meaningful progress as human beings.

P. has consistently refrained, to comment on political matters. But recent events are so startling and alarming as to embolden his inclination to violate this consistent precedent.

A nominee to run for the highest office in our land is enthusiastically selected by millions of American voters, despite the evident knowledge that he lacks the requisite wisdom, intelligence and temperament to govern and occupy a revered place in our American history. More than embarrassing and shameful, it is a threat to our way of life and culture, our relationships with other countries, and to world peace.   This result could only have been attained by the accumulated effort of our vast low information population who uniformly suffer from the chronic and contagious diseases of ignorance and illiteracy.

The medieval period is referred to by historians as the “Dark Ages.” This was a period of time famously featuring ignorance, illiteracy, superstition, atrocities and general social and intellectual decline.

“The Age of Reason” which  followed in due course , ( “The Age of Enlightenment”) saw the questioning of despotic and institutional rule, overcame superstition and  proclaimed the enlightened notion that humanity does best when it employs reason, logic and respect for empirical reality.

Thus, the lack of utilization of the unique, vital resource of brain power (reason) is a problem much more existential than the contested choice of natural power sources; it is no less than lethal. The choice between the relapse of a new dark age of ignorance, primitivism, fear and superstition and a bright world of enlightenment, of wisdom and intelligence needs to be carefully and wisely considered.

p.

Blog # 60 UNANNOUNCED WINNERS

The recognized rules applicable to the sport of Track and Field make the identification of the winner of a race simple and incontrovertible; it is the first of the runners to cross the designated finish line. Additionally, such result is often publicly announced amid the adulation and congratulatory cheers of the crowd. Further, the winner is traditionally given a medal or trophy cup as an official symbol of his successful effort. Thus, from the standpoint of those rules, the identification of the winner is visibly simple; by the same rules, the identification of the ostensible losers is similarly, simple and obvious; it is everyone else who ran.

Separate and apart from the aforementioned rules, there are other (unwritten) criteria whose application, by contrast, would make it difficult to correctly identify the losers.

There are individuals who enthusiastically choose to participate in sporting contests despite their certainty that they have little prospect of winning. They do so for the experience and personal pleasure of participation. These individuals deserve our commendation. Such acts are indications of healthy sportsmanship, personal security and even, perhaps, strength of character.

There are also many who run for more profound, especially meaningful, personal trophies.  Such people are those hampered by disability, physical or mental, recent convalescents and others who seek the personal award of self-assurance and a” can-do” sense of competency. The valuable prizes earned by such people, the feeling of assured competence and a personal sense of adequacy, by virtue of such performances, are rewards far exceeding medals or public recognition. Their brave efforts, usually unknown to the spectators, are all victorious, regardless of the order in which each has reached the finish line.

There are. notably, a plethora of “winners” and “losers,” outside the stadium setting; many of whom  experienced  poverty, disability or  other unfortunate settings in early life.  Many have laudably overcome such misfortune and dire adversity by their sheer will and effort; sometimes to such a degree that they are in fact, celebrated and honored by an adoring public.

P., it should be noted, reserves his greatest accolades and fanfare for those who begin their lives with such impediments, whether economic or physical, and who, by perseverance,  have succeeded, in attaining a decent life for themselves and family. These individuals whose admirable success,  while not of such magnificence and scale  as to engage public notice and social recognition, are indeed deserving of the greatest of commendation, albeit their success is not broadcast to stadium spectators.

We may need to re-think our sensitivities in the employment of the words, “winner” and” loser.

-p.

Blog # 59 REDUCTIO AD NAUSEUM

Some of us may be in a select bubble; still avid readers of great literature, avoiders of celebrity magazines, maintainers of home-based land phones and critics of television’s eccentricities (reality shows, low information discussion groups, dumbed-down history and market- based propaganda).

With the exponential increase in transmission of information, by way of the internet and smart phones, albeit limited in content, one expends much less cognitive effort than in independent review and study. With all the warehoused facts in such electrical device and  all the available “App” choices, our innate capabilities of reason and aesthetic discrimination are atrophying by disuse and becoming vestigial.

Often, the users of such mechanical devices will remonstrate, “It saves time and effort”. It may well be inquired as to what positive use has such savings been applied? Apparently, it would seem, not to activities leading to personal growth, life enhancement or self- knowledge. Such people have apparently become the dependent servants of their own electronic robots and not the intended reverse.

“Keep it short and sweet,” “Just give me the skinny,” “Keep it simple” (as if one always has the choice), and “I’m in a rush,” are often heard in inquiries as to questionable events or disputed facts.

The Latin phrase, reductio ad absurdum, refers to the oversimplification of events, issues and personalities (by the elimination of relevant facts) as leading to erroneous and distorted conclusions.  For example, the unfounded conclusion, by reductive reasoning, of a causative relationship between events that follow each other, based upon the sole fact that one event merely preceded the other.

We can never uncover truth by lazy oversimplification. As stated above, the inclination to make such easy and quick judgments seems unfortunately, to be the style du jour.

Personal knowledge, by its intrinsic nature, is subjective; but is of no use unless it is consistent with objective reality. To avoid the required effort to take into consideration the attendant and relevant facts, for any reason, is to court disaster. Events normally have multiple, often interactive, causes and to seek easy, quick conclusions usually leads to unfortunate (and avoidable) results.

Judgment as to the quality of people by their physical or ethnic characteristics, or the acceptance of ostensibly negative events, without reasonable efforts to learn further ambient facts is ungenerous and irresponsible. Some reductive reporting can be observed even in some of our television media. We have the clear duty to ourselves and society, to make necessary inquiry as to related facts and the context of the reported event and personally reach a mature rational and fair judgment.

Fair independent inquiry and thought s especially valuable at election time.

-p

Blog #58 (Poesie) CARAVANS, BLIND EXODUS

Great beasts of burden, tended by the strong
Old wise folk, some with brood
Followed in huddled groups of five and ten
Laborers, craftsmen, water carriers-all
Bent silent under a scorching, mocking sun.
At seldom times, each looked up from his feet
Which left but shallow footprints in the sand
To gaze, tear-eyed into the desert wind.
Silence prevailed throughout, disturbed alone-
By the sound of straining animals and men.
They plodded on, as ere, mysterious, grim, determined.

Several times along the way, Caravan met Caravan
Traveling opposite ways, still silent and detached
No exchange of words, no waves, not a glance
But like huge blinded turtles, passed each other
Blinking, straining toward the horizon-
As if “there” life would begin; as if “here” it had ended.

All processions look the same, and perhaps-
The last one passed was passed before
Yet eyes saw not, minds detached, bodies moving mechanical
Nor was there day nor rest at night, for even-
When they could not see, they strove toward a dark horizon.

-p (Attributed to Leonard N. Shapiro ~1950)

Blog # 57 Poesie TEARS, PHANTOM SHIP

Full laden, she rocked the waves
Hull full with gems
Facet-less but diamond- like
Many sized, divers sourced
From brown, from white from yellow—
Glittr’ing, shiny
Jewel boxes, treasure trove
Sea chests much bestuffed
With tears-
Tears- most precious of man’s jewels
Ripped ready- refined
Pure, Holy

Tears of expectation, of joy
Some borne of laughter, of crying
Most precious- tears of love
Wind-swept tears
Tears of growing up, of getting old
Longing Tears
Meeting and parting tears
Missing you tears, tears of relief
Salt-bedecked, rich warm greeting rears
Little girl tears, delicately dropped
From loving temples
Tears from blind eyes- like jewels
From a mine of darkness

Onward it sailed
Toward the edge of Earth,
This magic ship
Could I but discover the destination–
A velvet World of diamonds!

-p (attrib. Leonard N. Shapiro 195- on the death of baby Debbie)

 

 

Blog # 56 TO AND FRO: INSIDE AND OUT

When we travel abroad, our lifelong inner conversation becomes more focused and intense due to the absence of the distraction of our repetitive daily experience and routine; the latter does not call upon any singular awareness. When we go abroad and encounter new environments and “foreign” people, our attention becomes focused purposefully elsewhere.

Our previous blogs have meditated principally on the great significance of the inner nature of our lives, feelings of worth, success and self-fulfillment, often residing in ourselves in projected comparison with our contemporaries. We have maintained that significant and meaningful self-evaluation is the accumulated total sum of such inner takes and perceptions.

On the subject of travel, itself, we have observed that long distance and truly exotic voyaging can be meaningfully experienced through the Arts, especially fine Literature.

Actual travel can free the mind from useless preoccupation with banal stereotypes and mindless preconceptions and liberates our capacity for the understanding of others and, by extension, ourselves. An example is in the attainment of a better and objective understanding of grammar from the study of a second language. By analogy, a spontaneous realization and recognition of our own routine folkways and practices is gained by the observation of differing practices. For example, observation of people who eat with the assistance of chopsticks, obliges the western visitor take particular notice that he does otherwise, he eats with the aid of a knife and fork. By travel, we thus become more aware as well of our own practices, patterns of thought and routine behavior; travel is always potentially an additional voyage of discovery of ourselves.

A cogent subject for consideration in our ongoing inner conversation with ourselves, is the objective reconsideration of our limited “cookie cutter” expectations and related “group think”, a benefit derived from the perspective gained from travel, (see blog # 55).

Actual delight is experienced in the recognition of a place, previously familiar to our inner self, as a site recognized from the reading of literature and history.

In confronting and experiencing variations in the ethnic or national life of others, the visitor may choose to be especially accepting and deferential in his behavior in an effort to make a good impression. Would that we could all tailor our sensibilities and behavior after his return home.

Of greatest importance is the realization that despite ostensible differences in appearance, folkways and patterns of thought, we come away with the certified realization that all mankind is uniform in its aspiration for peace, good health and self-fulfillment.

ADDENDUM: It is hoped that in the not-too-distant future, travel  tours would place somewhat less emphasis on forts, cathedrals and statues of gods and  generals and more on people viz., post offices, food stores, schools, local meeting places and the like.                                                                         -p

Blog # 55 THE LETHAL COOKIE CUTTER

Analogous to the limited area of acceptability of the word, “discrimination” (ex. relating to taste in clothes, food, art, architecture) the operative word, “normal” has the potential of being a Dr. Jekyll or a Mr. Hyde product.

The word normal is useful when employed in the context of objective experience or the predictive state of inanimate things, i.e. physical properties of matter, weather patterns, weights and measures, agricultural or industrial production longevity, physical measurement, among the physical phenomena.

When used for the nefarious purpose of the valuation of human beings, it is more than baseless and inaccurate; it is unjust and has the potential in reality to be dangerous. The very concept of worth and value in the context of human beings is ignorant and frightening. People were not made clone-like with one uniform cookie cutter. The insensitive and mindless use of “normal” (with the exception of aberrant behavior) leads to negative, sometimes tragic results.

The easiest critique to make of the word and concept when applied to humans, is that it is indisputably subjective and the product of the commentator’s personal perception, hence inaccurate, In the extreme the word can be a publicly effective tool of totalitarian repression and, as shown by history, is an efficient precursor to extermination,

There is such a plentitude, regrettably of this frequently used word that for practical blog reasons, we limit ourselves to a few, hopefully demonstrative examples.

George Orwell, in his” futuristic” novel,”1984” (written well before 1984), portrays a future in which people are permanently sorted out and categorized in accordance with their perceived competency and usefulness to the State, gave a cogent view of a cookie cutter population.

We all have learned from the disastrous and tragic results of European colonialism, that only horror and perennial hatred are the fruits of ethnocentric arrogance. Such diseased thinking has not yet fully abated and the enduring scars on the self- image of humanity remain. As long as the mantra of “we” and “they” are still perpetuated, such tragedies will probably continue. (Blog #3).

In our personal lives and experience, analogous pathologies seem to infect the psyche and militate against the belief in the universal worth of all human beings and atavistically value people with the yardstick of race and ethnicity .The word” race,” in addition to lacking any scientific  basis, has never been used for any positive purpose but only for mischief.

The reprehensible standard of “normal” would seem to be a tactic of the insecure mind’s attempt to assuage its discomfort by the creation of a sense of community with others, also lack wisdom and perspective, but share a corporate unity of thought and outlook.

Examples of this outlook can also be observed in employment hiring (“is he a good fit”) and in the admission of an applicant for membership in a college fraternity (“is he a cool example of a frat  brother in our fraternity”). Difference is not acceptable.

It is reassuring that many people do possess desirable  qualities of originality and creativity of thought; people with the aspirations and probable future of full and rewarding lives through progress in self-knowledge, creativity and a developed sense of the aesthetic.

Arguably, the most unique and valuable feature of America’s greatness is its creativity and freedom of thought. The developments in new cures and  techniques in disease prevention, advancements in travel, communication, artistic expression, in understanding ourselves, our planet and our universe; we would not stand a chance of such spectacular developments with a limited, cookie cutter approach to mankind.

Under the large tent of humanity, there are variations in political belief, sexual identity, scientific belief, Deists and non-Deists; all are eminently acceptable and valuable.  Value is expressed in many ways but consistently dependent upon reason and the spontaneous acceptance of others who may be different.

Normal??  Not on your life.

p.

Blog #54 THE PROBLEM WITH “NO PROBLEM”

The current, ubiquitous, use of the phrase “no problem,” as a response to expressions of gratitude, like “thanks” and in certain other instances, is improper and in fact, unsettling.

There seems to be an infinite variety of minor mishaps caused and experienced in a busy, interactive society such as ours; minor physical contact on busy sidewalks, burning toast, forgetting a name, arriving a little late, forgetting to return the hairdryer, among a myriad of others.

These minor misdemeanors, usually the result of preoccupation, forgetfulness or inattention, are fully and completely atoned for by the statement, “oops, I’m sorry,” “excuse me,” “pardon me.” A suitable reply might be “that’s ok,” “it’s nothing,” “forget it,” or the like. A disagreeable alternative is “no problem;” it is this latter phrase (now in vogue) with which we are concerned.

Some concern is based on the premise that this “reply du jour” to an apology, might seem to imply that if not for the generous forbearance on the part of the speaker, a problem would in fact exist. Such a response is thoughtless, insensitive and could even be seen as hostile.

Another unfortunate use of the subject phrase is in response to an expression of appreciation for assistance rendered to the elderly or disabled in navigating a high curb, picking up an object dropped by a stranger, helping someone to his feet or giving directions. The best response to “thank you” is “you are welcome.” Utilizing the mindless phrase may be understood to describe the discretionary choice of amnesty and is clearly inconsistent with the act of assistance. Nor is it warranted in the engagement of a contractor or mechanic (unless it has reference to the degree of difficulty of the job) the terms and price having been agreed to. One would not expect the phrase “no problem” to be used in response to words of appreciation expressed to an amply compensated doctor or lawyer.

There is at the very least, in addition to the criticism as to use of the expression as a response to words of gratitude, an aesthetic critique (with the phrase as such) with regard to which, p. affirmatively has a problem.

p.

 

Blog #53 TWO CHEERS FOR THE WITCH DOCTOR

Early Native Americans would seek the aid of the shaman or witch doctor for assistance in times of trouble. The holy man (usually with the aid of peyote or some other hallucinating drug) would enter into a trance-like reverie during which he would access and communicate with the spirits for advice.

Problems of every description, illness, failures in love, personal disputes, failures of conception, curses and all other needful occasions .The witch doctor or shaman could be designated, in modern parlance, a “general practitioner” (apparently there were no specialists then).

Honor and special status was accorded to this useful holy man, gifted with the franchise to commune with the spirits. It would appear that such office and function was of great value in the preservation and peaceful functioning of the tribe.

In the modern era, we are culturally inclined to look askance at the professed ability to commune with the” spirits” for solutions to problems.  While we recognize the benefits of such phenomena in its time, we are ethnically reluctant to certify to its validity.

It is unfortunate that we have become inordinately reliant and dependent upon the universe of digital electronics; our ability to do research, to solve problems and to procure entertainment are some examples. It is, in fact, disheartening to admit that we have surrendered so much of modern man’s evolved skills and facilities to mechanical contrivances and have therefore necessarily suffered a great dependence upon them.  Additionally, while most individuals have acquired a working familiarity with the operation of these devices, few actually have the ken or ability to comprehend the “magic” behind their dynamics and operation.

It is possible to construe a limited, functional, analogy between the shaman or witch doctor and those whose profession incorporates the seemingly “magical” ability to communicate with the rarely understood forces behind these digital contrivances. The computer professional has the “Merlin”-like power to commune with the celebrated “cloud” and, as in the case of early man, provide a solution to the problem including no less than the dramatic act of bringing a dead computer back to life.

However, the comparison is a limited one because the computer professional’s power and utility is strictly limited to the world of the computer and related digital- type problems.  Outside the specialized, limited area of the computer specialist there exists a plentitude of human problems, personal and interpersonal, disappointment in love, failure in business, illness and a myriad of others. These are not within his calling or professional capability.

For these problems we are obliged to designate ourselves our own personal shaman and, commune with our inner self, our personal resources for solutions or for accommodation. Our inner resources are the essential tool for the solution to, or amelioration of our problems. (Blog #8). In similar fashion as the mining of natural resources in commerce, we have to unearth the mature and developed ore of reason and wisdom for the purpose.

We are born with the innate potential for learning and the potential for the acquisition of wisdom. The “mining” of our inner resources, of course, is necessarily dependent upon their sufficient presence and accessibility. These are developed through meaningful life experiences and interactions and especially, as personal shamans, communing with the eternally wise spirits of our great authors of literature. (Blog # 9).

Most problems of humanity are not unique (although they may feel that way); in reality they are universal and within in the broad spectrum of human existence. The exposure to humanities’ universal challenges can be derivatively experienced and studied though their situational portrayal by the many world class novelists (our spirits). We can derive necessary detachment and perspective relative to our problems, with which we may from time to time be confronted, from their classical iteration.

The office of providing assistance to all and unlimited manner of problems, in their day, should entitle the witch doctor or shaman to no less than three cheers, however, we have deducted one from our title by reason of the employed  methodology.

p.